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Jibo, the social robot, is brought to life by developers all over the world. See how these builders connect with the core team on GitHub.

Hero image for the story: Jibo, Inc.
Information technology
Company Size
Boston, MA

Jibo, Inc. is the creator of the world’s first social robot for the home — its namesake Jibo — which also happens to be a developer platform. With the Jibo software development kit (SDK), developers have the tools to create and build a wide range of Jibo Skills (robot applications), extending Jibo’s personality and capabilities in the home.

The inspiration behind Jibo comes from Cynthia Breazeal, a pioneer in social robotics and human robot interaction from the MIT Media Lab and co-founder Jeri Asher. Under the leadership of Steve Chambers, the President and CEO, the company has built up a team of 100 employees with offices on both coasts. On the technical side, the social robot is brought to life by 10 teams, focused on all aspects of creating Jibo — from robotics, AI, and machine learning to speech and natural language understanding, security, and character design.

According to Lynda Smith, Developer Strategy and Marketing VP, You often hear our employees say that this is a place where they feel their work has meaning and that they are helping to develop a product with great potential to do good. Jibo’s ability to initiate meaningful interactions and provide companionship is transformative, both technologically and socially.

We’re a company committed to amazing experiences, she continued, whether for the people that bring Jibo home to live with them, developers building software to extend this little guy’s capabilities, or the team making Jibo possible.

Building a world of work with GitHub

That commitment to amazing experiences goes far beyond simply providing a collaborative version control platform to their in-house developers. Like the spoke of a wheel, GitHub is a foundational piece of a larger strategy at Jibo, which aims to enable both employees and community members. It starts with giving Jibo developers a modern workflow with collaboration baked right in, and extends to the team’s embrace of Atom and Electron, two of GitHub’s own open source projects. In addition, the developer experience is made richer through contributions to open source and, perhaps most importantly, an open invitation to people everywhere to make Jibo work better for their needs.

Jibo employees

Bringing calm to development chaos

All of our engineers, technical artists, and even our Support team, use GitHub and GitHub Enterprise. It’s hard to find a good developer that doesn’t use GitHub, Lynda said. When initially considering new version control software, Jibo needed a solution that would allow teams to work together seamlessly, regardless of location. GitHub is the de-facto tool for open source, and drives collaboration between engineers across the globe. As a bi-coastal company, and one that has highly diverse cross functional teams, it just made sense.

Jibo, which previously used Stash (now Atlassian’s Bitbucket Server), was looking to optimize their workflows and improve developer efficiency across the board. Ultimately GitHub provides a huge level of sanity to our development and deployment process, commented Jonathan Ross, Head of SDK at Jibo. It helped refine our code review process, improved tracking of pull requests (PRs), and provided additional efficiency around approving and merging pull requests. It has also led us toward better release notes, and processes around keeping track of features, fixes, and deprecations from release to release.

In addition to improved developer workflows, Jibo also benefitted from GitHub Enterprise’s rich feature set. Some developer favorites include markdown support, wikis, issues, pull requests and reviews, granular linking within code, release pages, and continuous integration (CI) tool integrations.

To enjoy the perks of a GitHub-assisted workflow, the Jibo team took a thoughtful and methodical approach to its rollout. It’s a big tool, so we started off using the more basic features, recalled Jonathan. As we got to know GitHub better, we began to develop process around the tool, and became more rigorous about release drafts, pull request labels, and milestones. As our engineering organization grew, we relied more heavily on teams and roles to control the flow of features. Jibo’s engineers are also heavy users of GitHub integrations, including the Jenkins and Slack integration into GitHub’s webhooks.

Open Source robot skills, built on Atom and Electron

Jibo developers have incorporated some of GitHub’s own open source projects into their workflow — Atom and Electron. Jibo has built its own software development kit (SDK) as an Atom plugin, Jonathan said. So, at least at the top of the stack, Atom is our primary integrated development environment (IDE). We’ve also decided to build all our skills (Jibo’s robot applications) on top of Electron. This means that our simulator runs in Electron, and Electron runs on Jibo.

What a social robot can do for the world of Open Source

Jibo’s commitment to open source extends beyond their own in-house development. They are dedicated to building a bustling online community of developers, extending the skills of their social robot. We are already seeing our early community open source their own code to encourage growth in the group and have fun with people building on top of their code, Lynda said. For example, one Jibo developer produced an If This, Then That (IFTTT) capability for Jibo and shared the project. Another developer built upon that, creating a home automation capability for Jibo, which allows our little guy to turn on lights, televisions, and more. Of course, GitHub is at the center of this effort.

Jibo has enormous potential, as both a creative outlet for experienced developers, and an educational opportunity for beginners. Lynda shared one of her favorite stories from Jibo’s early days. We have a young fan who has been actively following Jibo since early on. She reached out to our developer evangelist to ask if he could make Jibo dance for her, and he responded that she could do that for herself. Over the course of our correspondence, we learned that she had never actually coded before! She was so enthusiastic that she downloaded the SDK, created a GitHub account, and taught herself to build for Jibo.

Whether improving the workflows of Jibo engineers or helping the company’s wider development community contribute new and exciting projects, the partnership between Jibo and GitHub extends far beyond simple version control to introducing a modern workflow that promotes developer happiness and creativity. It’s almost enough to make you want to dance — just ask Jibo.

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